The expression pay one’s respects has been in use since the 1500s, though many find it confusing. We will examine the meaning of the phrase pay one’s respects, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To pay one’s respects means to make an effort to speak to someone in order to show your esteem for him, especially in a social situation. To pay one’s respects is usually a social obligation, and not necessarily one from the heart. However, paying one’s respects may be genuine. The term to pay one’s respects has increasingly been used to mean to attend a person’s funeral. This is probably an abbreviation of the terms pay one’s last respects or pay one’s final respects. In this case, it may refer to respecting the deceased or respecting the family of the deceased. Related phrases are pays one’s respects, paid one’s respects, paying one’s respects. Note that respects is the plural form.
“When I joined the Royal Navy 18 months ago, I never imagined I’d be here in the Far East so early in my career, so it’s very special to be following in his footsteps, and to pay my respects to those who didn’t come home.” (The Maritime Executive)
To pay his respects to the man known as “Shrek” in the motorcycling community, Lang gave him the black leather motorcycle club “cut,” or vest, off his back. (The Quad-City Times)
Former Knick Carmelo Anthony paid his respects Monday to the family of 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, who was dragged out of a Bronx deli Wednesday and butchered by gangbangers in a grisly killing that has captured the city’s attention. (The New York Post)